From the press of Aldus Manutius

A leaf from Scriptores Astronomici Veteres (Ancient writers on astronomy) by Aratus of Soli and others, printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice in 1499(273 x 178 mm) 

This leaf and the next display many of the features which earned Aldus Manutius his reputation as the greatest of Italian printers: his concentration on reviving classical texts, the excellence of his typography, the scholarly purity of his texts (which I take on trust from those qualified to judge) and the innovative flair that eventually gave birth to a whole new style of book.

Aldus was a scholar and teacher who in his forties set up what became known as the Aldine Press in Venice. He specialised in rescuing the works of classical authors, reprinted in greek and latin. The larger of my leaves comes from a compilation he made of ancient astronomy texts. It carries a description of the starry heavens written by the greek Aratus in about 300 BC and here translated into latin verse. The heading ‘Arctos’ refers to the constellations of Great Bear and Little Bear, and the text (I think) describes in terms of mythology how these two creatures come to be in the sky, pursuing one another endlessly around the pole.

The type for Aldus’ books originated with a punchcutter of outstanding talent, Francesco Griffo. The roman font used for my leaf lives on today under the name of Bembo.

Aldus’ workshop, where this leaf was printed, can still be seen near the church of San Agostino in Venice.

Aldius Manutius' house in Venice

The Manutius printing-house in Venice, photographed in 2012

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